Real value of arts support priceless

Do you recall the time when you and your spouse headed out to your favorite neighborhood restaurant only to find it had gone out of business?

For those supporting arts organizations and producers of art, we’re seeing the same thing. Machine Theatre, Dugg Dugg, Charlotte Rep, Story Slam. The list of arts organization leaving or closing is long.

Absent some significant behavioral change on the part of Charlotte’s citizenry, we are likely to experience acceleration in the reduction of theater, music, dance, visual and literary arts, and other forms of locally produced creative work that enrich and contribute to our quality of life.

These organizations and individuals simply cannot continue their work solely on the basis of arts grants, corporate sponsorships and dwindling public funds. They need community involvement. The key to success for any arts organization or individual is found in one basic behavior: Patronage.

Our economy makes supporting the arts a challenge. Perhaps, though, we are too focused on the cost or price side of the equation and aren’t really considering fairly the value of patronizing the arts. Discounters like Groupon focus our attention so heavily on price we lose sight of the actual return we gain from our investments.

Reflect for a moment on the value of arts in our community.

Watch the faces of toddlers sharing the stage with Play Play Theatre performers and hear from their parents how their creativity is stimulated. Relish the emotion and energy from experiencing the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Neighborhood Theatre and see how their performance brings dollars to neighborhood retailers. Capture the feeling and power behind kids showing their creative best at a Poetry Slam event and have pride in knowing how their exposure to poetry is motivating many who otherwise wouldn’t go to college.

Arts are not like trees falling in the forest. If no one is there to experience the opera, purchase a painting, read a poem or thrill to a puppet show, it doesn’t happen. There is value in our collective patronage in knowing the arts will be there again and again when we want to experience them.

Back in October, Wells Fargo hosted a tremendous community celebration day in supporting arts, culture and science organizations, performers and artists uptown. If attendance figures were the sole measure of accomplishment, the free event was a tremendous achievement.

The real measure of our community’s support of the arts goes beyond one community day, however. Our success will be defined in recognizing that a concert subscription, an oil painting, a dance recital or a theatrical performance is worth every penny we pay for it, and more.

Michael J. Solender is an independent journalist. michaeljsolender@gmail.com